Earlier this week, officials at the University of Texas at Arlington announced that all fraternity and sorority social events would be suspended until further notice. They cited “concerns regarding the culture of the fraternal community, both at UTA and nationally.” The announcement caught students on-campus off guard, and though this is a somewhat rare step, it is not the first move of this kind by a university, or even one in Texas.
Scott Jaschik, editor at Inside Higher Ed, says UTA’s announcement offers little detail, but campus-wide bans usually occur after serious events.
“When other universities have done this, it usually follows a very public incident involving hazing or sexual assault or a racist incident,” Jaschik says.
When deciding whether or not to ban Greek life, Jaschik says universities have to weigh lots of factors, such as student wellbeing, student housing availability, the fairness of collective punishment and the possibility of getting sued.
“On many campuses, Greek life not only in some cases houses students, but is a focal point for campus life generally,” Jaschik says.
UTA’s ban comes at a time of additional scrutiny of fraternities and sororities. Jaschik says that students have died at other universities, after participating in hazing, racist parties and a disproportionate number of sexual assault cases in recent years, and underage drinking often plays a role.
“These [incidents] do affect all of campus life, and I think university leaders are under pressure to show that they care,” Jaschik says.
While the prevalence of Greek life seems to be declining on some college campuses, Jaschik says fraternities and sororities are still vibrant and powerful at many universities.
“It’s not easy to just eliminate them, particularly if you’re not prepared to step up and do more to promote to social life that students want, to promote housing that students want,” Jaschik says.
Written by Sara Schleede.